By Barb Brouwer
What is death? What happens when we meet it? Do we get a choice between coming back or crossing over?
These are some of the questions Salmon Arm author Virginia McCausland wrestles with in Death’s Ferryman Rides a Harley.
Designated as youth fiction, this engrossing book is a worthwhile read for any age.
As we enter Clara’s world, we find her at a bus stop waiting for her boyfriend. But instead of Peter, a cute young man named Billy rides up on a Harley. She has no interest in engaging with him until he brings up Einstein, a person for whom she holds great admiration.
But something is oddly out of place.
The confused 16-year-old is struggling to understand why today has suddenly become yesterday. And what is that collection of flowers with her photograph near the bus stop where she fell asleep?
Clara begins to slowly absorb the odd fact that “life” is no longer familiar. Reassured when she sees some of her friends at a popular coffee shop, she is further surprised by the fact they can no longer see nor hear her.
She wonders how she can be dead. Everyone knows you go to the other side on a ferry, not on a Harley.
And if she is dead, why would God send this guy to be her spirit guide?
Billy is a guide, but he also tries to encourage Carla to take a look at herself, her values and her dreams, says McCausland.
“Life isn’t about the big splash, it’s about the ripple effect of one small pebble,” she says. “The small thing you do can have a huge effect.”
As well as examining the great mystery of death, and its effect on all involved, the multi-layered book covers teenage themes of young love, bullying and judging others for their looks and prestige.
As well as operating a music school in the Lower Mainland, McCausland ran a musical theatre group at a fine arts camp. Some of the many youths who attended camp then joined her classes at Surrey Academy.
A musician and playwright, McCausland says fiction is a vehicle for getting a message across. But Death’s Ferryman Rides a Harley was inspired by a small play she wrote on the improv exercises her students did to help cope with the grief and loss of a good friend who died suddenly.
McCausland holds a BA of Music from Western University, a masters of fine arts from UBC and a publishing certificate from Ryerson University. She is a member of the Shuswap Association of Writers.
Death’s Ferryman Rides a Harley is available at Bookingham Palace at the Mall at Piccadilly.
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